Ledford takes down Dragons

WALLBURG | The first play of the season for West Davidson’s football team was a thing of beauty.

The first game? Well, not so much.

After Dragon quarterback Graham Shoaf lofted a perfectly thrown 78-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Zach Queen just seconds into Friday’s season opener, Ledford promptly regrouped, rolled off 34 unanswered points and then put things on cruise control to take a 34-14 nonconference victory.

Dalton Harris rushed for three TDs and led a Panther offense that compiled nearly 300 yards on the ground, while the Ledford defense quickly righted the ship and suffocated West’s new-look spread offense.

“I just liked the way our kids responded, especially after that first play,” said Ledford coach Chris Adams. “That’s happened two years in a row to us against those guys (a touchdown on the first play of the game). But the kids didn’t panic and that, I think, is the mark of an experienced team.

“That’s what we think we have this year.”

The Panthers dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides and covered up any running or passing lanes the Dragons were trying to find.

Ledford’s first TD drive lasted just six plays and covered 65 yards with Harris busting into the end zone from four yards out. A few minutes later, the shifty, hard-running junior took a toss sweep from quarterback Bubba White and raced 49 yards to paydirt. Then George Melvin got into the act with 8:36 left in the second quarter as he squirted through the middle of the Dragon defense on an inside trap play and outran West’s secondary for a 75-yard TD scamper.

“I was really happy with the way Dalton ran and it was good to see George bust one,” said Adams. “And, obviously, with those guys running well, that means we are blocking well up front.”

Harris added his third TD run of the game on Ledford’s next possession, making it 27-8 in favor of the home team.

White and wideout Austin Humphries then gave the Panthers some points through the air on a nicely thrown slant pattern that resulted in a 56-yard score.

The onslaught overwhelmed a West team that is thin on depth, and trying to absorb a new philosophy under new coach Bryan Lingerfelt.

“We are just learning,” said Lingerfelt, who looked a bit strange in the green and white after donning East Davidson’s black and gold for so many years. “We got off to a great start with that touchdown pass, but after that we just couldn’t pick up their pressure. I saw some improvement in some of the kids since our scrimmage last week and that’s good and the kids responded better in the second half. That was good to see because that is what I asked of them at halftime.”

West’s final score of the game came on a 1-yard plunge by Phoenix Gaddy late in the fourth quarter. That touchdown, though, was aided by a botched snap by Ledford’s punt team that sent Harris, also the Panthers’ punter, scrambling back to fall on the loose ball just outside the end zone. The result was a loss of 30 yards on the play.

“We’ve got to prepare better and we’re just not there yet,” said Lingerfelt. “You win Friday by winning on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Your intensity in practice is the measure of a good football team. We’ve just got to keep improving and trying to get better at what we’re trying to do here.”

Adams, for one, thinks Lingerfelt will do just that.

“Well, No. 1, Bryan is just a class guy,” said Adams. “As long as I’ve coached against him, I’ve always had respect for the way his teams play. With what he is trying to do over there, anything like that takes time. It is not going to happen overnight.”

Notes: Harris finished with 141 yards rushing and Melvin had 115 … Ledford did have 159 yards in penalties, some of which Adams attributed to first-game jitters … Chase Lewis and Tyler Hall each had interceptions for the Panthers, who will host North Davidson next Friday … West welcomes South Davidson next Friday.